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Microsoft Launches Previews of Flow, PowerApps

Public previews of two new Microsoft services, Flow and PowerApps, became available on Friday.

The preview of Microsoft Flow, a workflow automation solution that can be used to tap application and service data, is available via sign-up at this page.

Flow is frequently compared to IFTTT, a free service that lets users set up actions for data across services based on in-then statements. Microsoft described Flow as a solution that "makes it easy to mash-up two or more different services," according to a blog post by Stephen Siciliano, principal group program manager for Flow. It currently connects more than 35 services, including "OneDrive and SharePoint, and public software services like Slack, Twitter and Salesforce.com," Siciliano explained.

Flow users can use it to send notifications, push data into Excel (such as Twitter posts), send OneDrive files to SharePoint Sites and create simple workflow approval tracking, he added.

Flow is integrated with the PowerApps business developer tools, but Microsoft also carved it out separately. It can work without PowerApps. It previously went by the "Logic Flows" name, Siciliano explained:

If Microsoft Flow sounds familiar, that's because back in November we announced a private preview of the Logic Flows feature of Microsoft PowerApps. However, Microsoft Flow is useful for any business user, whether or not they want to build a PowerApp. To make this easier, we decided to make Microsoft Flow available without ever signing up and using PowerApps.

Back then, Microsoft seemed to use the term, "logic apps" to describe this capability.

PowerApps
Microsoft first unveiled PowerApps late last year, but they were at the private preview stage back then. Now, anyone can try them by signing up at this page.

The PowerApps tools are conceived as making it easier for organizations to create business solutions. Prospective users include IT pros and company employees, as well as developers, according to Microsoft.

The tools, which include prebuilt templates and wizards, can be used to create Web apps, mobile apps, logic apps and API apps, according to a description by Scott Hanselman, a principal program manager for Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise Group. Languages such as .NET, NodeJS, PHP, Python or Java can be used, but Microsoft also describes PowerApps as allowing users "to build apps, forms, and workflows without writing code," per its announcement.

It's possible to "create applications from data" by using a PowerApps connector to software-as-a-service-type applications. Microsoft's list of applications that can be tapped in this way includes "SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, Dynamics CRM, Salesforce, Dropbox" and others. If a connector to a service isn't available, it's possible to create custom APIs from any RESTful API, according to Microsoft.

Some cumbersome developer activities, such setting up data access permissions in applications, supposedly are more easily handled when using PowerApps. Microsoft's announcement explained that "Apps respect data source permissions at all times, so be assured that only authorized users can access data from any app you share."

Applications built using PowerApps will run in a browser. Alternatively, Microsoft has PowerApps client applications for Android and iOS mobile devices.

Microsoft has been enhancing PowerApps on a weekly basis. In the near future, it plans to add support for "SharePoint data types, look-ups, more connectors and templates, and performance improvements," per its announcement.

For those looking for PowerApps documentation, Microsoft seems to be building it out gradually at this page.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.